What we've learned from the World War Z trailer

Feature Ryan Lambie 26 Mar 2013 - 06:41

Yesterday saw the release of the latest World War Z trailer. Here's what we've learned from it...

When the first trailer for World War Z landed last November, some fans of Max Brooks' source novel voiced their displeasure. After all, the book, written as a series of first-person accounts of a zombie epidemic, hinted at a documentary-style adaptation rather than the slick, Hollywood disaster movie director Marc Foster appears to have made.

The cynicism surrounding World War Z: The Movie something we've written about before, so we won't go over it again here. But the more pressing question, now that five-or-so months have elapsed and a second trailer has emerged, is this: can the adaptation win over its critics, and lure in the potential audience which will make it a summer season hit? Let's take a closer look at the footage, and see what we can learn...

Pitt the Elder

In adapting the book, screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan has developed the anonymous interviewer into a more fleshed-out character, who now goes by the name Gerry Lane. Played by Brad Pitt, Lane's happily married to Karin (Mireille Enos from the US version of The Killing), and enjoys frying eggs for his two children. But even as those eggs are flapping in their pan, some foreshadowing of coming events is unfolding on the telly: with the world in the grip of a pandemic it doesn't yet fully understand, its governments have called in the army to take control of the streets. And very soon, the Lane family will be swept far away from its cosy city life and aluminium cooker hood, as a full-scale zombie apocalypse begins to take hold.

In the pretend version of this trailer running in our heads, the child's question, "Daddy, what's martial law?" is met with the reply, "It's a kung-fu cop show starring Sammo Hung, honey. But that's not important right now..."


In a replay of the first trailer, we see crowds running frantically through the streets of New York (played beautifully by Glasgow), as an unseen invasion of the undead takes place. Exactly what the Godzilla-like howl that plays out over these scenes of panic might be is anyone's guess, but if these shots tell us anything, it's that the scale of the film far outstrips the sort of thing we normally see in zombie flicks - even the relatively expensive ones, such as Zack Snyder's surprisingly decent Dawn Of The Dead remake.

There are planes, helicopters, huge crowd scenes, and wide vistas of New York enshrouded in smoke. No doubt reflecting the structure of the finished film, the trailer also establishes a neat first act: Gerry Lane and family attempt to flee the outbreak, get stuck in traffic, head to a nearby high-rise building for safety, and are plucked from danger just in the nick of time by a military helicopter. The pursuing zombies, meanwhile, tumble to their doom like lemmings from a clifftop. Which leads us onto...


For a film about a zombie outbreak, the walking dead are, you could argue, notably for their absence. Instead, much of the second trailer, like the first, deals with the human reaction to their arrival rather than the ghouls themselves, and what we do see of the zombies is largely kept to wide shots rather than close-ups. What has been firmly established is that the zombies in the World War Z film are somewhat different from the ones we've seen in the past. Yes, they run, which will alarm purists and readers of the book, but they also crowd together like insects, clambering over each other in great piles.

Clearly, this sort of behaviour makes them more akin to a tidal wave than disparate cannibals, as their running hordes are seen smashing tables, chairs and buses out of their path, and even using their overwhelming numbers to scale walls. The jury's still out on how effective the zombies will look from close-quarters - we're hoping the film's makers will have employed prosthetic rather than digital effects for these shots - but for a summer movie more about action than slow-paced horror, these locust-like undead are the perfect fit.

Fighting round the world

With his wife and kids safely holed up on a US battleship, Gerry heads off to discover the source of the pandemic, and, he hopes, a means of stopping it. This aspect of the film's plot provides one of the stronger allusions to the book, which talks about their being a 'patient zero', even though the disease's origins are never discovered. The film clearly takes inspiration from the book's global scale, too, with Lane apparently flying from the Middle East to Russia in order to find his answers.

David Morse

Ah, David Morse. A superb character actor, as seen in the likes of The Negotiator, The Rock, and The Long Kiss Goodnight. We've known for some time that he's in World War Z, but this is, to the best of our knowledge, the first time he's been spotted in character. He clearly plays some form of CIA chap who, for some reason, has been left to starve in an abandoned prison. That Morse is great at playing villains (see Disturbia for recent proof), plus the rather Hannibal Lecter-like way he's filmed in his cell, suggests that his character might be more of a hindrance to Lane than a help. Whether friend or foe, his prominence in the trailer surely hints at a central rather than cameo role, which can only be a good thing.

Flight of the living dead

Carefully placed for maximum impact, an extended sequence aboard a passenger jet forms the trailer's final act. As all hell breaks loose, a section of the plane rips off, sucking luckless travellers out into the freezing sky. We can only speak for ourselves here, but this was the moment where our attitude toward World War Z flicked from mild interest to sudden anticipation. We see Lane sitting near a passenger with a shaven head and a blanket wrapped around her. She's probably an important part of the plot, and maybe someone immune from the zombie disease - which would provide Lane with a means of stemming the pandemic. But how will Lane survive a crashing jumbo jet, and if he does, where will he end up?

For those still annoyed at the makers of World War Z for adapting the book so loosely, this latest trailer is unlikely to change their opinion. But taken on its own terms as a big-budget take on a horror staple, the movie looks highly intriguing - and besides, we still have to allow for the possibility that some scenes, characters and ideas from the book will tie into the movie in ways we haven't yet seen. We'd be surprised if the 'Lobo' weapon didn't make a token appearance, for example.

To return to the topic of the zombies themselves one final time, maybe their coy handling in the footage so far released is a deliberate attempt to save a few surprises for the finished film. If director Marc Forster can make them a properly threatening presence, then World War Z could be an unusually intense summer blockbuster.

World War Z is out on the 21st June in the UK.

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Never read the book, so nothing to compare it to, but the trailer looks pretty good, so I'll be watching it

In the book, the thing that saved humanity was the adoption (unintentionally in some places - or at least unnoficially) was the adoption of the Redeker Plan, named for it's South African creator. This basically involved sacrificing huge numbers of civilians in order to save the majority by using the time to create more defensible locations from which a merit based societal rebuilding and finally counterstrike was possible. Possibly this is what Morse's character is going to suggest.

Unless the "Zombies on a plane" bit is a dream sequence......

My wife watched the trailer with me. She thought it looked exciting, and asked what the people were all running away from, and why build the human pyramid? I explained that they were actually zombies. She was put out by this, she really doesn't 'do' zombies (They are a manly thing, women prefer vampires).
So I can't decide whether the portrayal of super-rage virus zombies in the film, rather than the classic shambling corpses in the book, is a good thing or not.

Looking forward to this. We've never seen a truly global zombie apocalypse onscreen before and i for one cant wait for that. It's gonna like nothing we have ever seen before. Im a Romero purist at heart but i have no issues with zombie movies that depict 'running' zombies. It's good to have a bit of variety and, for me, running zombies offer a more realistic portrayal of how the world would collapse in rapid time. I've heard WWZ is planned as a trilogy? Maybe if the first film does great we will get two more films showing the fight back, etc. 'Zombie' Roll on June! Cant wait!

Do you think they borrowed footage of the plane crash from the Iron Man 3 trailer?

ive read the book and this version of it reminds me of Disneys shambolic version of the Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy

The Redeker chapter is one of the most powerful parts of WWZ:The novel

Running zombies, walking zombies - I don't really care either way. Dawn of the Dead is a great movie, so is 28 Days Later.

What I take issue with is completely unconvincing, cgi zombies, and movies that are obviously embarrassed to admit what they actually are.

This film looks like an absolute stinker.

Sorry but this looks utterly pathetic. What on Earth were they thinking? Even
the special effects - which should be the big selling point of this
sort of thing - look like a dog's dinner. Seems to me that the rumours
of a production out of control were been on the money. I will be amazed
if this turns out well for anyone - shaping up to be the big flop of

It's nice that someone (the government?) got a graphic designer to
come up with some fancy graphics to show how long humanity has left.
Nice touch!

Agreed - the Redeker bit is brutal, posing questions about whether we as a species are even worth saving. The saviour of the world becomes a reviled monster who spends the rest of his life rotting in a jail cell.

The movie - completely unsurprisingly - appears to completely abandon this dark and controversial subject matter, replacing it with typically sentimental, idealistic Hollywood garbage.

Holding back on close ups of the zombies? Didn't they do the same for the trailer to I Am Legend? And look how that turned out...

Hey, it's a trailer that's an actual trailer, not a little TV spot.

Not bad looking. Not surprised the zombies are de-emphasized. Nothing quite says "horror niche" like zombies, and this is a big budget/big star Hollywood picture.

I thought this trailer was much more exciting, and I hope that there's even more yet to be seen. I do want them to keep the darker aspects of such a situation intact, but there's nothing wrong with some over-the-top apocalypse moments

I know it's meant to be a US battleship, but the fact is that it was filmed on and the external scenes used are of a british auxiliary ship. The fact that I spent four months on it just sucked me out of the trailer. Hopefully it won't play to large a part in the movie.

After Pitt did that piss boring baseball movie, I just assume all his movies are crap and don't watch them.

I agree the zombies look a bit 'unconvincing' but im gonnas reserve judgement until i see them in the context of the story itself. It's important to remember that CGI has come a long way since the 'I am Legend' debacle so i remain hopeful. You have to admit, the images of zombies swarming on top of each other like ants are pretty spectacular and startling. Plus its important to remember that World War Z is an epic story told on an apocalyptic and global scale. No way that be done without using CGI. My hope is that Foresster gets it right directorially, sharp startling CGI images that run short enough that u dont 'buy out' of the visual premise (that tends to happen when CGI shots are lingered on for too long) A-N-D..... actual close up images of the zombies and infected are realized through make up and prostectics. Time will tell i guess. You should be positive Tom! It might not be all we want it to be but its shaping up to be a treatment on the zombie apocalypse narrative the likes of which weve never seen or been done before! As a fan of all things Z, thats something i am eagerly anticipating :)

I thought Moneyball was great! Im English and dont even know anything about Baseball but what a fascinating story! I enjoyed it very much. Im also looking forward to WWZ but i do suspect like others that it will be the first major flop of 2013. It will be purely down to Pitt's box office pulling power. Wether the numbers are 'inevitable' or not remains to be seen. :)

I have nothing at all against cgi in general, but from the trailers released so far ALL the footage appears (in my opinion) to exemplify all the absolute worst traits of lazy, poor quality cgi - the kind of stuff that gives cgi a bad name. There's a bit where the characters are on a rooftop and it looks so patently fake it was giving me flashbacks to The Room. Would it have killed them to, you know, filmed on a ACTUAL rooftop? This is a production with hundreds of millions of dollars at its disposal for god's sake! If they can't even get something as simple as that right, I really start to worry about the more ambitious sequences.

Personally, everything in the two trailers released so far looks totally and completely phoney, and entirely lacking in any atmosphere or grit whatsoever. The 'infected' footage in 28 Days Later (filmed on a shoestring budget I might add) was INFINITELY more scary and effective.

I completely share your desire to see a global apocalypse fully realised on screen, but I just don't think that's what we're going to be presented with here - from the looks of it it's going to totally cop out on the bleakness and grit in favour of sanitised, bloodless violence and a tedious Hollywood 'save the world' type plot. The great thing about WWZ the novel (as with all great Zombie fiction) is how it brings out the very worst in its human characters - conflicts on a personal and international scale as the panic rises and the survivors start to turn on each other. To me, this looks every bit like a zombie film made by people who don't love or even understand the genre, let alone the book it is 'based on'.

I hope I'm wrong, I really do.

This could turn out to be a masterpiece of the zombie genre... but it still ain't World War Z.

The only way I can see this being a World War Z film is if they declare it as THE Prequel to a series. The problem with that though is the remainder of the series will be flashbacks from people discussing their memories of the war which could indeed have a lot of good screen shots but would it be as intense as this? It's a waiting game now.

Lets face it, there is just no way this is going to be as bad as Warm Bodies was. The concept was absolute crap from the start and ended up with everyone living happily ever after with no one worried about living with people that had eaten brains before. Now that is idealistic Hollywood garbage.

I like the fact that Pitt has a magazine strapped on his arm (bite guard?). For some reason I find it really encouraging that they've considered that kind of detail...

The problem with this movie is not the change from documetary to live narrative, but the zombies. Everything about the book is dealing with a very specific threat. These hyper-able zombies aren't a bad thing in of themselves, but they completely undermine everything about how Brooks deals with zombies in the book. This is more like a mash up of WWZ's world wide focus, and the capable "zombies" in Stephen King's "Cell".
I think this will be a fun movie. But it will not be WWZ in any approximation.

Yay for the new advert! Slightly more sentimental family bs and a few shots of capitol cities burning, cant wait!!

Isn't Warm Bodies aimed at teenage girls?

I think absolute best case scenario is that we're looking at another I Am Legend. IAL wasn't a TERRIBLE movie, but it was completely unmemorable and is largely objectionable to fans of the original novel it took massive liberties with.

The word is that - like IAL - WWZ has been an infamously troubled production (including the entire third act alledgedly being rewritten and reshot at the eleventh hour), and those circumstances rarely produce great films. Everything I've seen of WWZ so far really has a vibe of IAL, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow etc. Not encouraging signs, especially combined with the cheap-looking footage and the notable absence of good dialogue in the trailers. Bear in mind Forster's last film was Quantum of Solace - a film the majority of people hold to be an incoherent mess.

Oh dear...

The book was more than just a zombie story, it was a fascinating study of how we as a species would react to global devastation. The sacrifices we would make. The disturbing lengths we would go to for self-preservation. You could argue, in fact, humans were the real monsters of the story.
This, however, looks like yet another bog-standard "America saves the world" (a close up of the Declaration of Independence? Please.) disaster film.
I will avoid.

I'm going to be doing exactly what the article suggests. I'm going to go see it as a big budget summer flick. If you disregard the novel entirely (which it kinda looks like the movie does) it actually looks like a decent movie.

I'll just have to try all the harder to forget about the book while watching the movie.

Aw! It drives me pig-nuts when people start slabbering on about movies being different than the books. Duh! And for effect let me repeat that in capitals. DUUUUUUUH!!!!!

Books are not movies and movies are not books. And while I'm ranting let establish that comics are not TV-shows and plays aren't paintings and operas are not poems and songs are not performance-dance. Each and every single one is a DIFFERENT medium with different strengths, weaknesses, constraints, expectations and story-telling techniques. If a movie derives it's inspiration or source material from a literary original then the movie produced will by necessity be an adaptation. Repeat - AN ADAPTATION, NOT A FACSIMILE.

The only mother****er on the planet allowed to get indignant or protective or spend time blithering on about how "it's nothing like the original" is the bloody author of the original work. Only the person that bothered their arse to have an original thought and then went to the effort of writing it down is allowed to bemoan an adaptation. Everyone else banging that same drum is a ****-for-brains chimpanzee. I don't care if you found a piece of work first and loved it and recommended it to a hundred friends and made each of them recommend it to a hundred further friends you still do not own that piece of work. You are a sheep and all you are allowed to write in forums such as this is BAAA. BAAA, BAAA, BAAA. That is all.


Oh my God! Jesus Christ! It's a movie. It's a movie. It's only a fricking movie. It's just the same good-looking people pretending to be made-up people in a story that never happened that we've seen a million times before. There are more important things in the world!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Which is why In the Flesh is so terrific. People are absolutely horrified at the prospect of living with people that have eaten brains before, or at least having them in the community.

A down vote for that? Surely no one is defending the Hitchhikers movie?

You may be English but you don't spell English words so well. It's WHETHER, not WETHER. A wether is a castrated ram. Sorry, in narky form tonight. For some reaon the tone in this forum has left me feeling very irritated. People wasting their precious lifespan on writing nonsense about an inconsequential movie that will come and go without adding a single thing to our collective-lives. Writing opinions if others care. The fact many do further compounds the grievious feeling of impotence and futility. It's Constantine/Hellblazer all over again.

...and you come to a movie site to tell us that?

Well thanks for explaining that for me. I'm well aware changes need to be made in the process of translating something for the screen - I'm not an idiot.

But when an adaptation strays so far from the source material that all it shares is a title, as seems to be the case here (there is literally NOTHING in the trailers that I recognise from the book), I think it's perfectly reasonable for fans of the book to get up in arms about it. Not only is this NOT World War Z - it's existence ensures that there will never be a decent, respectful adaptation, and that's why people are angry about it.

Thanks for the grammatical correction. Seriously, what would i do without annonymous online hero's like you, not offering any kind of valid or valuable response but more than happy to take the time out of their daily lives to be cretinously asinine and point out simple spelling / grammar errors? thank God for you buddy. Thank God for you. Bless you. Bless you so much. God bless you, and all who sail in you. :l

I so want this movie to be great, but after the b-movie car-crash that was Prometheus, my expectations of Hollywood are rock bottom. Hey, I may be completely wrong, but I see one more reason to be sceptical (Brit spelling): -

In the book, the virus appears to originate in China. No particular explanation is give, but I think it is implied that Chinese agricultural practices and/or official incompetence/secrecy are causal factors. Now here are two possibly connected facts. (1) China has just become the second biggest movie market in the world, overtaking Japan; (2) based on the trailer, the film appears to place the origin of the disease in Russia.

These two facts may not be connected. Even if they are, it doesn't mean the film will be rubbish. However, my suspicion is that the two facts are very much connected. I also suspect that this is indicative that the film makers have been prepared to sacrifice their art for a product that doesn't upset any major demographics.

So I'm anticipating a juvenile level of emotional engagement, a non-sensical script and a 'happy' ending that allows us to dismiss the fact that 5 billion people have been killed in the most horrific fashion. Will probably still go and watch it though :-)

And another thing.... the disease has a lengthy incubation period in the book. In the film (based on the trailer and leaked clips) zombification is instantaneous. But if there is a zombie outbreak on a plane, that implies a lengthy incubation period (for the first infected passenger). I hope the script writers have artfully squared this particular circle, but the industry has a nasty habit of treating viewers as idiots. We could be left with either a silly breakdown in consistency, or they might introduce some ridiculous deus ex machina (e.g. 'yeah, most people turn instantly, but SOME take a while...')

Amen to that. I hope it will be a fun, scary movie, but it really doesn't feel like Brooks's book at all.

Wise words. I'll probably see it for the spectacle, but I don't expect to be particularly edified by it. More 'Independence Day'/'The Day After Tomorrow' than 'The Quiet Earth'/'On The Beach'.

Excellent point - a decent adaptation of WWZ is indefinitely postponed by this film. I would add that the producers are using excellent source material to sell tickets for something bearing lilttle resemblance to it. Many fans of the book will rightly feel agrieved at being sold $15/£10 tickets under false pretences.

There's something very cynical and unpleasant about doing a big family-friendly blockbuster about a zombie apocalypse. The filmmakers want to have their cake and eat it, and I hope they get punished at the box office.

I saw an early screening of World War Z and I'm a huge fan of the book!!! The movie should not have been called World War Z, it was Brad Pitt running around being all the characters from the book... Some good scenes, but I would have enjoyed it more if it wasn't tied to World War Z....

No, it is not an excellent point. You two giggling fangirls have got your heads so far up your collective derrieres that you can't see the horde for the zombies.

Point the First - The studio are cashing in.

Exactly how much worldwide impact do you think the book WWZ had? I would rate it as being freaking negligible. So exactly what social awareness are the studios "cashing" in on? It's zombies that they are cashing in on, not WWZ. And it's a risky cash-in because believe it or not - a lot of regular ticket-buying folks don't like zombies. So someone at the studio probably started out with the genuine intention of making an earnest adaptation of the book. Probably because they had loved it themselves. Then the scope of the original story got in the way of all the structuring and politics that goes with investing $100M (or however much) on making and marketing a blockbuster and we end up here, today with what will probably be an unsatisfying bastardisation. If the studio was really "cashing" in they would just scribble stick-zombies in the corner of a notepad and film themselves flicking the pages really quickly. That would be cashing in.

Point the Second - The world needs a WWZ movie.

Oh my God! If the story is so important then guess what? READ THE BOOK - IT ALREADY EXISTS. If you are too dumb or lazy to read a book then watch a blockbuster and you get whatever easily-digested, mass-marketed pablum they've come up with. No one is making you buy a ticket. You are under no obligation to go and see a movie you don't really want to go and watch. What in the name of **** is there for you to feel aggrieved about? FWP mother****er.

That is all.


Wow, someone has some sand in their cooch.

Nobody cares what you think there, big guy. Being a prick about it just makes it even less so.

Wow, what an arsehole.

You call me an arsehole? All I hear is BAA! BAA! BAA! And as for having "sand in my cooch" - not entirely sure what part of my anatomy you're referring to there Driving Miss Daisy, but if it's the same place I keep my cocktail-umbrellas then it's all shiny.

Sticking to my main point - it's not crap movies that drives me nuts - it's people behaving like whining, unproductive, cultural-parasites that does. You want your opinion to have weight? Write something original yourself. Then sell it to the mass-market. Got a reflection you can still bear to look at? You're a winner. Anything else? Shut-up or forever be a loser.

That is all - go in peace.


Do you think a boat just left a comment? I know they have internet connections but do you really think sea-vessels can spell?

It did seem to be the perfect place - movie site - rant concerning a movie -Yeah! I think my logic is pretty sound.


Then call it something else.

"Exactly how much worldwide impact do you think the book WWZ had?"

Irrelevant. WWZ filmed as written (more or less) would make for an excellent ADULT zombie film...or a thinking person's zombie film. THIS film is not that - it is a brainless popcorn hybrid of the awful I AM LEGEND, 28 DAYS LATER and DAWN OF THE DEAD remake. In other words...nothing new atall.

Because it isn't. They bought the title, and I suspect they knew that from the start.

I wouldn't be surprised... the whole thing feels like it borrowed scenes from everywhere else. The zombies having pretty much the same effects as a tidal wave. The rooftop scene looking similar to resident evil (especially with the zombie chasing the main person)

Ah, apparently the rogue zombie was trapped in the aeroplane's internal lift until freed by an irritating chihauhau (one Hollywood trope that is actually accurate). So, no special pleading there then on the part of the scriptwriters! Though as it happens I gather they ARE going to have the concept that some people turn at slower speeds than most. How convenient for dramatic purpose.

And so it came to pass. Apparently the script will be tweaked, at least for releases in certain regions, so as not to offend the Chinese. Actually, I read that they are now saying the virus originated in India rather than Russia. Strange. I would have thought that by the time the 10th anniversary collectors edition Blueray comes out, India will be a significantly larger market for home video than Russia. Well, I suppose they can edit/overdub the film once again to make some other country the cause of all the nastiness. Maybe Syria?

But still, but still... the trailer looks great to me. Why are people bitching about the CGI. Looks bloody good to me.

PG-13? I appreciate that will limit the gore, but that really seems to miss the point. The idea of a global zombie pandemic is absolutely terrifying if done reasonably well, and from what I can tell so far, this one is done at least reasonably well. There will be an awful lot of children having nightmares in the wake of this film, and an awful lot of dumb parents upset that their children saw it.

Worst CGI I've ever seen. CGI is playing a central role in destroying cinema, and this movie is exhibit A.

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